Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall, Russian-born French painter and designer, distinguished for his surrealistic inventiveness. He is recognized as one of the most significant painters and graphic artists of the 20th century. His work treats subjects in a vein of humor and fantasy that draws deeply on the resources of the unconscious. Chagall composed his images based on emotional and poetic associations, rather than on rules of pictorial logic. Predating Surrealism, his early works were among the first expressions of psychic reality in modern art. Chagall's personal and unique imagery is often suffused with exquisite poetic inspiration. Chagall's distinctive use of color and form is derived partly from Russian Expressionism and influenced by French Cubism.

Life chronicle >


Born on 7 July. First of nine children of Zachary Shagal (fishmonger) and Feija-lda (owner of a small grocery shop).


Graduates from grammar school. Works as an apprentice at a photographic studio. Studies painting and drawing under Yehuda Pen. Moves to St Petersburg in the winter Unsuccessfully attempts to enroll at the Baron Stieglitz Central School of Technical Drawing.


Enters the third grade of the school of drawing at the Imperial Society for the Encouragement of Arts. Earns money by giving private lessons. Works as an apprentice at a signboard workshop to receive an official residence permit. Wins a prize and an annual scholarship at the school of drawing.


Leaves the school of drawing in July. Attends the studio of Savely Seidenberg. Transfers to the Elizaveta Zvantseva School of Art, where he studies under Leon Bakst and Mstislav Dobuzhinsky. Paints Corpse (Death).


Introduced to Maxim Vinaver, a Duma deputy and editor of Ascent, a liberal Jewish art magazine. Meets jeweller's daughter Bella Rosen-feld in Vitebsk in the summer (Bella is a student of Konstantin Stanislavsky and the Higher Courses for Women in Moscow). Paints Portrait of my Bride in Black Mittens and Self-Portrait with Brushes.


Contributes a series of paintings, including Corpse (Death), to his first exhibition - works of the students of the Elizaveta Zvantseva School of Art at the editorial office of Apollo in April. Maxim Vinaver holds a small exhibition of his works at the editorial office of Ascent and purchases two paintings. Travels to Paris in August on funds supplied by Vinaver Studies under Andre Dunoyer de Segonzac and Henri Le Fauconnier at the Academie de la Grand Chaumiere and Academie de la Palette. Paints Birth of a Child and Sabbath.


Rents a studio at La Ruche, a colony of avant-garde artists in Montparnasse. Studies Cubism and Fauvism. Associates with painters Jean Metzinger, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Leger and Modigliani, sculptors Jacques Lipchitz, Henri Laurens and Alexandre Archipenko and poets Guillaume Apollinaire, Blaise Cendrars and Max Jacob. Paints The Village, To Russia, Donkeys and Others and Poet (Half Past Two).


Contributes to the Salon des Independants in the spring and the Salon d'Automne in the autumn. Sends paintings to the Donkey's Tail and World of Art exhibitions in St Petersburg. Paints Golgotha, Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers, In Honour of Apollinaire and Drinking Soldier.


Contributes to Die erste deutsche Herbstsalon in Berlin and Target in Moscow. Enjoys success at the Salon des Independants. Paints Maternity. Blaise Cendrars dedicates two poems to him - Portrait and Atelier.


Contributes to the Salon des Independants and an international exhibition in Amsterdam. Anatoly Lunacharsky writes the first monographic article on him in Kievan Thought in March. Guillaume Apollinaire dedicates a poem to him - Rotsoge. Holds his first one-man show of forty oil paintings and 160 gouaches, watercolours and drawings at the Galerie der Sturm in Berlin in May. Returns to Vitebsk in June. Paints Clock, Over Vitebsk and Holiday (Rabbi with Lemon).


Jacob Tugendhold publishes an article on him entitled New Talent in Russian News in March. Contributes twenty-five works to 1915 in May and twenty-four works to the Moscow Salon in December Marries Bella Rosenfeld in July. Moves to Petrograd in autumn and serves on the committee of war and industry. Associates with leading intellectuals. Designs sets and costumes for Nikolai Yevreinov's cabaret shows at the Halt of Comedians. Paints Mirror, Red Jew, Relaxing Poet and Birthday.


Birth of daughter Ida in spring. Illustrates Yitshok Leyb Perets's The Magician and Der Nistor's The Tale of the Cockerel, The Little Goat and The Mouse. Contributes sixty-three works to Modern Russian Painting at the Nadezhda Dobychina Bureau d'Art in Petrograd in April, thirty-six works to an exhibition at the Strindberg Salon in Helsingfors in May, Exhibition of Jewish Artists at the Nadezhda Dobychina Bureau d'Art in Petrograd in autumn and forty-five works to the jack of Diamonds in Moscow in November.


Contributes forty-four works to Pictures and Sculptures by Jewish Artists in Moscow in April, Exhibition of Modern Paintings and Drawings at the Nadezhda Dobychina Bureau d'Art in Petrograd in spring, Jack of Diamonds in Moscow in November and seven works to an exhibition of studies at the Nadezhda Dobychina Bureau d'Art in Petrograd in December Designs the decorations for the Gogol festivities at the Hermitage Theatre. Turns down an offer from the Provisional Government to work for the planned ministry of art. Returns to Vitebsk after the Bolshevik revolution and lives with his wife's parents. Paints Jewish Cemetery Gates, Promenade and Bella with a White Collar.


Abram Efros and Jacob Tugendhold publish the first monograph on him in Moscow (The An of Marc Chagall). Contributes to an exhibition of modern painting and drawing at the Nadezhda Dobychina Bureau d'Art in Petrograd in spring. Appointed commissar for art in Vitebsk Province in September Founds the Vitebsk School of Art. Designs the street decorations celebrating the first anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution in Vitebsk. Paints Green Fiddler, Wedding Ceremony, Over a Town (1914-18), Double Portrait with a Glass of Wine (1917-18) and Vision. Self-Portrait with Muse (1917-18).


Opens the Vitebsk School of Art in January. Invites Mstislav Dobuzhinskyjean Pougny, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich and Yehuda Pen to teach at the school. Heads the Free Studio of Painting. Elected director of the Vitebsk School of Art in May. Resigns in late autumn after a conflict with Kazimir Malevich. Contributes twenty-four works to the I State Free Exhibition of Pictures in Petrograd in April (twelve works are acquired by the People's Commissariat of Education). Contributes to the I State Exhibition of Pictures of Local and Moscow Artists in Vitebsk in November.


Briefly returns to the Vitebsk School of Art. Helps to found a museum of modern art in Vitebsk. Designs sets and costumes for the Theatre of Revolutionary Satire in Vitebsk. Moves to Moscow in May. Works for Abram Efros and Alexei Granovsky at the Jewish Chamber Theatre in Moscow in November Paints a cycle of panels for the auditorium - two compositions (Introduction to the Jewish Theatre and Love on the Stage), four allegories of the arts (Music, Dance, Theatre and Literature) and one frieze (Wedding Table). Designs the sets and costumes for one-act plays based on the works of Sholom Aleichem (Agents, Mazel Tov and Congratulations; premiered on 1 January 1921).


Contributes panels, theatrical designs and book illustrations to a one-man show at the Jewish Chamber Theatre in June. Resigns from the theatre after a disagreement with Alexei Granovsky. Unsuccessful collaborations with the Gabim Jewish Theatre and Moscow Arts Theatre. Teaches drawing at orphanages. Starts to write Ma vie in Russian following the death of his father.


Contributes to the World of Art exhibition in Moscow in January and an exhibition of designs for the Jewish Chamber Theatre organised by the Kultur-Liga in Moscow in March. Moves to Kaunas and Berlin in the summer with the help of Anatoly Lunacharsky (commissar of education) and Jurgis Baltrusaitis (Soviet ambassador to Lithuania). Seeks the works contributed to his one-man show at the Galerie der Sturm in Berlin in 1914. Contributes to Die erste russische Kunstausstellung at the Galerie van Diemen in Berlin. Takes up engraving. Paul Cassirer commissions illustrations for Ma vie. Manages to return three oil paintings and a series of gouaches in 1926. The proceeds from the sales of works are wiped out by hyperinflation.


Holds an exhibition in Berlin. Etches illustrations for Ma vie, which is published by Paul Cassirer Moves to Paris. Ambroise Vollard commissions illustrations for Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls. Paints Birthday. Completes ninety-six etchings in 1927. The book is only published in 1948.


Contributes to an exhibition at the Galerie Centaur in Brussels. Holds his first retrospective at the Galerie Barbazanges in Paris. Associates with Andre Malraux, Jean Cocteau and Louis Marcoussis. Paul Eluard and Max Ernst try to attract him to the Surrealist movement. Contributes to the Vienna Sezession. Paints Jew with Torah and Angel and Bella with a Carnation.


Andre Salmon dedicates a poem to him - Metamorphoses. Ambroise Vollard commissions illustrations to Jean de la Fontaine's Fables. First one-man show in New York at the Reinhardt Gallery.


Ambroise Vollard commissions nineteen gouaches on the circus theme. Donates ninety-six etchings for Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls to the Tretyakov Gallery. Paints Clown and Donkey and Bride with Double Face.


Founding member of the Association of Painters and Engravers. Contributes etchings to the Russian section of the exhibition of contemporary French art at the Museum of New Western Art in Moscow.


Ambroise Vollard commissions Bible illustrations. Invited to visit Palestine by the mayor of Tel Aviv. Contributes to Kunst unserer Zeit at the Kunstlerhaus in Vienna. Paints Red Angel and Acrobat.


Visits Palestine, Egypt and Syria with his family. Ma vie is translated into French by Bella and published in Paris with a foreword by Andre Salmon.


Visits Holland and contributes fifty-five works to an exhibition at the Society of Dutch Artists. Designs the sets and costumes for Bronislava Nijinska's unstaged ballet Les variations de Beethoven. Contributes to an exhibition of Russian artists in Philadelphia.


Major retrospective at the Kunsthalle in Basle. Joseph Goebbels burns his works in Mannheim. Paints Nude over Vitebsk.


Visits Spain and studies the works of El Greco.


One-man show of forty-four oil paintings and gouaches at the Leicester Gallery in London. Visits Warsaw and holds an exhibition at the Institute of Jewish Culture in Vilnius. Paints Rabbi.


Awarded French citizenship. Fifty-nine of his works are shown at the exhibition of "degenerate art" in Munich and destroyed by the Nazis. Addresses the theme of the Crucifixion. Paints Revolution.


Holds a one-man show at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Paints Liberation, Resurrection and Resistance (1937-38).


Holds a one-man show in Paris in February. Decorated by the Carnegie Institute. Settles in Saint-Die-sur-Loire. More works are shown at an exhibition of "degenerate art" in Vienna. Paints Groom and Bride of the Eiffel Tower and Midsummer Night's Dream.


Moves all his works to the south of France on the eve of the Nazi invasion. Contributes to an exhibition at the Galerie Yvonne Zervos in Paris. Invited along with Matisse, Picasso, Raoul Dufy, Georges Rouault and Max Ernst to the United States by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Briefly arrested in Marseilles in May. Moves to New York in June. Retrospective at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York.


Designs the sets and costumes for Leonide Massine's ballet Aleco to the music of Peter Tchaikovsky for the American Ballet Company in New York.


Bella dies in New York in September Period of creative depression. Illustrates and publishes Bella's memoirs as Burning Lights. Paints Red Horse (1938-44), To My Wife (1938-44) and Harlequins (1922-44).


Designs the sets and costumes for George Balanchine's ballet L'Oiseau de feu to the music of Igor Stravinsky at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Paints Soul of the City in memory of Bella.


Paul Eluard writes the poem To Marc Chagall. Contributes 144 works to retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. Illustrates The Arabian Nights and Paul Eluard's Le dur desir de Durer.


Returns to France and settles near Saint-Germain-en-Laye. One-man shows at the Musee National d'Art Moderne in Paris, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Tate Gallery in London. First coloured lithographs. Paints Self-Portrait with Grandfather Clock Before the Crucifixion, Appearance of the Artist's Family (1935-47) and Flayed Ox.


Wins first prize at the XXV Venice Biennale for graphic works. Teriade publishes Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls. Paints Lovers over a Bridge.


Retrospective at the Kunsthalle in Dusseldorf. Designs murals for the foyer of the Watergate Theatre in London. Paints Clock with Blue Wing.


Major retrospective at the Kunsthaus in Zurich and exhibition of lithographs at the Galerie Maeght in Paris. Moves to a villa in Vence in Provence. Illustrates Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron. First ceramics.


One-man shows at the Kunsthalle in Berne and the Bezalel Museum in Jerusalem. First stone sculptures. Paints King David.


Marries Valentina (Vava) Brodsky in July. Travels to Greece and illustrates Longus' Dophnis and Chloe. Teriade publishes Jean de la Fontaine's Fables.


Exhibition of drawings, watercolours and engravings at the Albertina Museum in Vienna. Retrospective at the Palazzo Madama in Turin. Finishes the Fantastic Pans series of paintings. Paints Rooftops in memory of Bella.


Creates the Circus series of lithographs. Teriade publishes the Circus album. Paints On Two Shores (1953-56) and Portrait of Vava (1953-56).


Travels to Israel to attend the opening of the Chagall House in Haifa. Designs ceramic panels and stained-glass windows for a baptistery at Assy in Savoy. First mosaic panels.


Designs the sets and costumes for Maurice Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe at the Opera National de Paris. Designs stained-glass windows for the Cathedral Saint-Etienne de Metz. Reads a series of lectures in Chicago and Brussels.


Awarded an honorary degree at Glasgow University. Elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Holds retrospectives in Paris, Munich and Hamburg.


Designs stained-glass windows on the theme of the twelve tribes of Israel for the synagogue at the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem University. Awarded the Erasmus Prize with Oskar Kokoschka in Copenhagen and an honorary degree from Brandeis University in Massachusetts.


Exhibition of stained-glass windows in Jerusalem.


Visits Washington. One-man shows in Tokyo and Kyoto. Invited by French minister of culture Andre Malraux to design a plafond for the Opera National de Paris. Designs the Commedia dell'arte mural for a theatre foyer in Frankfurt-On-Main and stained-glass windows for the northern nave in the Cathedral Saint-Etienne de Metz.


Visits New York and designs stained-glass windows and a mosaic for the United Nations building. Completes the plafond for the Opera National de Paris.


Awarded an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Designs two murals for the new Metropolitan Opera building at the Lincoln Center in New York (opens in 1967). Designs the sets and costumes for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera Die Zauberflote at the Metropolitan Opera.


Moves to St-Paul-de-Vence in the Mediterranean Alps. Designs mosaics, twelve panels and three large gobelins for the new Israeli parliament building (Knesset) in Jerusalem.


Creates thirty-eight etchings on the theme of the circus. Eightieth anniversary retrospectives at the Wallraf-Richart Museum in Cologne, Kunsthaus in Zurich and St-Paul-de-Vence. Holds exhibitions in Toulouse and at the Fondation Maeght and Louvre in Paris. Paints Trinity.


Visits Washington. Designs mosaics for Nice University Paints Jeremiah, Isaiah and Easter.


Foundation of the Musee national Message Biblique Marc Chagall in Nice in February. Opening of the new Israeli parliament building (Knesset) in June. Illustrates the poems of Andrei Voznesensky. Major retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris in December Paints Bird of the Sun.


Designs mosaics for the Musee national Message Biblique Marc Chagall. Paints Scene at the Circus (1968-71) and Lovers over Saint Paul (1970-71).


Designs the Four Seasons mosaic for the First National Bank in Chicago. Illustrates Homer's Odyssey.


Invited to Moscow and Leningrad by Soviet minister of culture Ekaterina Furtseva. Exhibits lithographs at the Tretyakov Gallery and inspects his compositions from the Jewish Chamber Theatre. Donates seventy-five lithographs to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Opening of the Musee national Message Biblique Marc Chagall in Nice in July. Paints Dream.


Exhibitions of graphic art in East Berlin and Dresden. Designs stained-glass windows for Reims Cathedral.


Illustrates William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Exhibition of works on paper at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.


Etches twenty-four illustrations for Louis Aragon's Celui Qui Dit Les Choses Sans Rien Dire. One-man shows in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nagoya in Japan. Paints Return of the Prodigal Son (1975-76).


Elected an honorary citizen of Jerusalem. Awarded the Legion d'honneur Designs stained-glass windows for St Stephen's Church in Mainz. Illustrates Andre Malraux's Et sur la terre. Exhibits illustrations for the books of Andre Malraux and Louis Aragon at the Fondation Maeght in Paris. Paints Fall of Icarus (1974-77).


Designs stained-glass windows for Chichester Cathedral. Illustrates the Psalms of David. Exhibition at the Pitti Palace in Florence.


Designs stained-glass windows for the Art Institute of Chicago. Exhibition in Geneva and the Paul Matisse Gallery in New York.


Exhibits lithographs at the Fondation Maeght and the Galerie Matignon in Paris and etchings at the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad. Paints the Circus cycle (1979-80) and Memories of an Artist.


Major ninety-fifth anniversary retrospectives at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Galerie Orangerie-Reinz in Cologne, Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen. Paints Artist over Vitebsk.


One-man shows in Copenhagen and Memphis in Tennessee. Designs stained-glass windows for St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.


One-man shows at the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Fondation Maeght in Paris. Exhibition of stained-glass windows and sculptures (1957-84) at the Musee national Message Biblique Marc Chagall. Retrospective in St-Paul-de-Vence. Exhibitions in Rome and Basle. Paints Newly-Weds against Pahs.


Major retrospectives at the Royal Academy in London, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Dies at the age of ninety-seven in St-Paul-de-Vence on 28 March.

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